Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Legendary Poetic Love Affair

Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning - courtesy of

The love affair of Emily Barrett and Robert Browning is one with which anyone who is a romantic at heart (secretly or visibly) can't help but treasure. Two poets completely in love writing beautiful poetry and 573 letters to each other. Not the only time this has happened but thankfully it ended better than say Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.  

In 1844 her book "Poems" was published and prompted a letter from Robert Browning expressing his admiration of her work. They met the following year and were together until her death in 1861. Their letters and poems to each other can be viewed online as they were written - pen to paper in their own hand. A sample of their loving words to each other - you may be familiar with the first poem, written by Elizabeth to Robert.

Sonnet XLIII
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints.  I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life;  and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

And an excerpt from Robert's first letter to Elizabeth:

I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett,--and this is no off-hand complimentary letter that I shall write,--whatever else, no prompt matter-of-course recognition of your genius and there a graceful and natural end of the thing: since the day last week when I first read your poems, I quite laugh to remember how I have been turning again in my mind what I should be able to tell you of their effect upon me

Quite the romantic pair! 

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